Mission life: THE KUKMIN DAILY

“Awaken women’s leadership to restore the spirituality of the Korean church”

2015-09-25 14:43

* This article is one of five in the series “For the Future of the Korean Church, Ordain Women Ministers.”

Rev. Kim Ye-shik (63, photo) was among the first batch of 19 women pastors ordained by the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK Tonghap) in the fall of 1996, following the approval of women’s ordination by the PCK Tonghap General Assembly in 1995. She planted Yeshim church in Bangbae-dong, Seoul, in 2000. Through “Home Church,” a small-group community, she nurtures lay ministers and brings counseling into her ministry for holistic healing.

Recently I met with Rev. Kim at the PCK Tonghap Women’s Building on Yulgok-no in Jongno-gu, Seoul. Prior to the 100th General Assembly of PCK Tonghap from September 14 to 17, she was busy meeting with women delegates as the chair of the Women’s Committee. “It has been 20 years since our denomination officially accepted the ordination of women, but women delegates are still only 1%. The Women’s Committee, because of its special status, needs to submit a petition to the GA every year for continuation. If our status becomes permanent, we can design mid- and long-term ministry plans for development of education and leadership for women ministers and laypersons.”

Rev. Kim emphasized the importance of women’s leadership in restoring the spirituality of the Korean church, now in crisis. “In order to embrace believers who have left the church, and to get the young generation to return, healthy and sound leadership is urgently needed. If women elders and pastors play the role of reconciler, particularly with their transparent financial management and non-political approach, they can work for unity within the church and minister together with their male counterparts. They will bring about the Korean church’s second revival. We need to awaken women’s leadership.”

Rev. Kim has not had an easy time paving a new path for women pastors, in the strongly conservative environment of the Korean church. She was a 32-year old mother of two when she entered Presbyterian seminary in 1984. She frequently had to hide her tears under the load of raising her children, studying, and ministering all at the same time. Particularly when her children were small, she felt guilty for not being able to mother them well enough.

She also experienced discrimination for being a woman pastor. After her ordination, when she said she would begin a church, her senior and junior pastors tried to dissuade her, saying “It is still too early.” Despite the lack of support and opportunities for women pastors, however, she has stood firmly so far, thanks to her solid sense of vocation.

“I wanted to show that women also can become head pastors and take part in the making of a healthy Korean church. I wished, as a woman pastor, to be a mentor for the women members, who vastly outnumber men in the church, so that they, too, can demonstrate their leadership. When women’s leadership is restored among us, the Korean church will be able to take on larger responsibilities.”

Rev. Kim advised her junior women pastors preparing for ministry to develop one specialty in their area of interest. “Complaining about the church’s patriarchal environment is never enough. Women should develop their own expertise, whether that be in ministry administration, computer skills, expertise in Biblical analysis, Christian education, social welfare, or counseling. One should prepare for her own ‘brand’ of ministry, the one she can do best.”

As to starting a new church, Rev. Kim said, “It is never an easy task. But if you’re called by God, I hope you will never lose courage. In planting a church, the most important things are a space in which to gather, and devoted members. You need to prepare these elements thoroughly, ahead of time.”

She emphasized networking among women pastors. “Even though we women pastors usually minister to small churches, when we study, analyze, and share with each other our experiences in transforming local society, we women pastors will grow together.” She said that women pastors should develop their God-given talents and work toward a ministry that satisfies what their church members need, rather than focusing on competition with men pastors.

“Now many of our lay members are undergoing mental suffering and depression due to extreme stress and difficulties at work or at home. Women pastors need to care for these persons through their ministry of healing and counseling, to help them regain health. Today we need a sincere and honest ministry. We need to care for and provide help to the vulnerable ‘parts’ of our ‘body’ as a church. When this benefits believers, it is a healthy ministry, no matter how small. I believe God will use women pastors as precious leaders, building on our special experiences and training up to now.”

Reporter A-young Kim (cello08@kmib.co.kr), with Yeara Ahn-Park (yap@kmib.co.kr)Photo by senior reporter Kang Min Seok

Click here for the original article in Korean

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